Indian activists vow to fight northern Minn. oil pipelineby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Some Indian activists say they will fight a planned oil pipeline that would cross the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota.
The pipeline, which would be built by Enbridge Energy, would bring oil from Canada to a refinery in Superior, Wis. The Leech Lake Tribal Council has agreed to allow it to cross the reservation, in exchange for a $10 million payment from Enbridge Energy.
But some tribal members are collecting signatures hoping to put the matter to a vote in attempt to block the deal. They say they are worried about the potential for oil leaks. They say some of the pipes that have been in the ground for 50 years or more are getting rusty.
Enbridge Energy spokeswoman Denise Hamsher says any rust spots on the surface don't threaten the integrity of the pipes.
"Not only do we visually inspect it and repair it, regulators are over our shoulders checking that we've done that," said Hamsher. "And periodically we run internal inspection instruments so we can actually see any evidence of corrosion, and repair it before it gets deep into the pipe."
Activist Winona LaDuke says native people are suffering from the surface mining in the Canadian tar sands.
"Arsenic in moose is now at about 453 times the levels that are acceptable to be consumed. The fish are dead in most of the rivers, and people are suffering very high levels of rare cancers," said LaDuke.
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission has approved the route for the pipeline project.
In addition to the Indian activists' opposition, several environmental groups have taken the project to court. They say taking oil from the tar sands in Canada is too environmentally destructive.